Training Camp Notebook: Raiders conclude joint practices with Rams, look ahead to preseason opener

A skirmish – or two – aside, Head Coach Jon Gruden was pleased with the work that his team got over the past two days against the Los Angeles Rams.

While the collective blood pressure of both squads unquestionably ran just a little bit higher Thursdsay, overall, both the Oakland Raiders and Sean McVay’s team got through the pair of practice sessions with an emphasis more on the work than the extracurriculars.

“That was a lot of good work,” said Coach Gruden following the culmination of the two joint practices. “Some really good things. Things we’re really excited about and obviously we have some things to clean up but two really good days. I compliment the Rams and their staff and their players and our players and coaches did a good job. We had one scuffle that was uncalled for but I thought for the most part our players played hard and we got a lot of work done.”

Indeed, with a pair of quality back-to-back days on the field against one of the premier teams in the NFL, the Silver and Black were able to get a get an accurate gauge on where they stack up on both sides of the football, and while there were obviously no winners or losers on the field in Napa this week, Gruden was satisfied with what he saw from his group.

“We’re a better team,” Gruden said when asked about his top-end takeaways from the joint sessions. “We’ve gotten better. That doesn’t mean much in terms of wins and losses but we’ve gotten better. Both lines of scrimmage, offensive line, defensive line. I think we competed better and I’m pleased.”

“I think the last two days were great for us because you are going against, obviously, a top ranked offense, great team, went to the Super Bowl last year,” added linebacker Tahir Whitehead. “Had the opportunity to open the season last year against them and the last two days was definitely a good challenge for us to see where we were as a whole, as a defense see how far along we are, and I think things went well. There was a lot of back and forth. In year two of the scheme I think we are a lot further than we were last year.”

In addition to breaking up the monotony of camp, the pair of joint practices with the Rams allowed the Raiders starters fresh looks against a different opponent, looks that become all the more valuable considering they’ll likely be spectators and not active participants in Saturday’s opener.

“You’re not going to see some of the starters,” Gruden explained. “You’re just not going to see them. You saw them today. You saw them yesterday. They took about 120 reps so we’re going to take a look at some young players, some guys that need the opportunity, and I don’t have that for you right now but I’ll have it for you tomorrow.”

He continued, “You know we got to see what the health of this team is. We had a hard time today. We only had one personnel group in. We had limited tight ends so we had to go with one personnel group almost the entire day with the exception of about ten plays. So we got to see who’s healthy at tight end, which receivers are healthy and when we have that we’ll go with our game plan.”

As Gruden said, we’ll have a much clearer idea of who’s going to strap on the pads Saturday night the closer we get to kickoff, but regardless of which players do or do not play, the past two days in Napa were arguably more valuable for the Raiders from top to bottom.

Take a look at Raider Nation watching practice and meeting their favorite Raiders at 2019 Training Camp.

Notable:

-Once again, we were graced by some Raiders of yesteryear at practice today, as Warren Sapp was seen patrolling the sidelines, as was the G.O.A.T, Charles Woodson. C. Wood watched almost the entirety of the session, and even spent some time talking up the Raiders defensive backs. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention another old friend who in the house Thursday, former long snapper Jon Condo also took practice in; once a Raider, always a Raider.

-Thursday’s practice was not without its pitfalls though, as starting right guard Gabe Jackson was unable to finish practice after suffering an injury to his left leg. Coach Gruden was unwilling to speculate what happened to No. 66 but did say he would provide an update when one was available.

-Prior to Jackson leaving the field, the athletic guard had himself quite the day, as he went toe-to-toe with Aaron Donald, one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. We almost certainly won’t see Jackson vs. Donald Saturday night at the OACC, but the duo didn’t disappoint Thursday afternoon.

-Overall, I think the Raiders looked a lot crisper – on both sides of the ball – during Thursday’s session. The offense, in particular, enjoyed a few explosive moments against a really good Rams secondary. One of the best moments of the day came during one of the seven-on-seven sessions, when Derek Carr found Marcell Ateman in the back of the end zone.

-Defensively, Paul Guenther’s group enjoyed their fair share of highlights too, one of which came courtesy of Dylan Mabin, who picked off one of the Rams quarterbacks during a seven-on-seven period.

-The Hunter Renfrow show also kept airing episodes Thursday, as the rookie remained really impressive. In fact, one of the best plays of the joint sessions belonged to the former Clemson Tiger, as he hauled in a pass from Derek Carr, tapping both feet in before falling into the end zone. No. 13 has been a stud all camp, and while it remains to be seen how much he’ll play Saturday night, he’s a guy I can’t wait to see play in live action.

-We heard rookie linebacker Koa Farmer’s name called Thursday, as the undrafted free agent tallied an interception during one of the day’s final 11-on-11 sessions. With a revamped linebacking corps, the former Penn State Nittany Lion will have to make the most of his run during the preseason to show that he deserves a spot on the team’s final 53-man roster.

-Time for our daily special teams update: Thursday was A.J. Cole’s day to kick, and the rookie had himself an afternoon. From the outside, it looked like Cole’s effort was his best, collective effort of training camp, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him Saturday night.

Quotable:

Linebacker Tahir Whitehead talking about the support of Raider Nation while the team is in Napa:

“They are die-hard Raiders fans through and through and that’s what I love about it. They never waiver. They might talk a little smack, get on your case a little bit, but at the end of the day they are not going anywhere and that’s what I love. They are going to be right in that stadium through thick and thin, rooting and chanting and raving about everything throughout the whole game. Just going to take it one step at a time. Right now we out here, have another year in the Coliseum and we’re just going to embrace it and just put on a show.”

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Up Next:

Real football – well, almost real football – is nearly back.

After a morning walk-thru tomorrow, the Raiders next time on the field will be Saturday night at the OACC for their preseason opener against the Rams.

Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM.

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